Visit to Bowood House and Gardens

My invitation read: “Come and visit Bowood’s famous spring planting; and Lord Lansdowne will lead a tour of his woodland garden.”

Who could resist such a missive. Not me! So I set off for Wiltshire- dreaming of camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas galore!

And what I found was one of the best spring gardens I’ve ever visited. Over two miles of paths meander through the 30 acre garden- set within a former quarry. A stream runs through the valley with banks of ferns, candelabra primroses and bluebells either side.

Now, I’ve been on these garden visits before, where tours are promised. The owner is often there for a welcoming reception- but then frequently hands over to staff for the tour itself. So I was surprised and pleased to see Lord Lansdowne standing by his offer and giving us a walking tour of his garden – and one that ran an hour longer than planned.

If you come to visit my garden, I’ll take you around, show you the tree I planted when we moved here, my favourite seat, my favourite shrub and the plants I inherited from my grandparents’ garden. To be honest, our visit to Bowood felt just like that; a keen gardener showing us around his plot – with all his favourite trees and shrubs and viewing points. As soon as we arrived, Lord Lansdowne pointed to a group of cornus dogwood trees and described them as his “pride and joy.” And then followed a chat about how difficult they are to grow, and how “wonderful” they look when the white bracts appear in spring. His enthusiasm is something we all share as gardeners. We nurture and plant something, and then stand back and admire it, and want to share that moment with fellow gardeners. It’s something I recognise and understand.

One thing I haven’t got though (ok, there’s no rolling acres and stately home either) is a rhododendron named after me. This one is Lord Lansdowne’s – it’s rather lovely, with peachy cream petals and pink buds.

I can see why this is one of his favourite views, looking out from the garden. We are standing on the mausoleum steps looking out across the tops of the rhododendrons through a gap in the trees.

Some of the rhododendrons are called Bowood Hybrids, and Lord Lansdowne showed us the nursery beds where his selected seedlings are planted. He said they could be sitting there for 10 years before he’d know if they were something special or not. Patience is obviously a virtue when you are growing new varieties like these.

I must admit, there were a dizzying array of variety names as we walked through the woods. I should have written them down, but I was just listening to the commentary and enjoying what turned out to be a most unusual and special day. I mean, how often can you report that you were meandering through the woods and suddenly there on the path is the celebrated plantsman Roy Lancaster!

Roy, who is writing about the gardens, stopped for a chat and joined our group for a photo. It was fascinating to hear the two friends talking, the Latin names flying back and forth. And later, we visited a patch called Roy’s Corner, where specimens brought back from Roy’s plant-finding expeditions are being nurtured. Altogether, it had been, a day like no other.

Bowood Woodland Garden opens from 28th April until early June. Check the website for details. http://www.bowood.org

No wonder the owner admits he spends every Saturday lunchtime having a picnic in the gardens. I think I would too.

Many thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising this visit to Bowood. If you work in horticulture, you can become an associate member. Membership is open to anyone working in garden writing, broadcasting and photography. Probationary membership may also be available for new starters in the profession and there are training courses and mentoring schemes available.

Snowdrops and Botanical Art at Easton Walled Gardens @EWGardens

If you’ve never visited Easton Walled Gardens, you’ve got until 4pm tomorrow to view their stunning snowdrops. The gardens are open today and tomorrow 24/25th February, from 11am. And you are in for a treat. The winter displays have never looked better and feature snowdrops, iris, crocus, hellebores and masses of scented flowering shrubs.

I wrote about the history of Easton in a blog post last winter Here.

Here’s a gallery of photos I took earlier in the week.

If you are lucky, you will see kingfishers flying along the river. Such a special moment when you catch sight of that bright flash of blue feathers.

A favourite view of the stone bridge crossing from the meadow to the walled garden.

Always a poignant moment to stop and look at the ruins, all that remains of the mansion house that once stood on this site. New this year, there’s some marker stones set in the grass to show where the front door would have been.

We love the kokedama displays. Such an unusual and pretty way to display snowdrops.

I might try this idea, hanging basket kokedamas look spectacular in the gatehouse stone archway.

There are displays of little potted bulbs all around the gardens. This one is Iris Blue Note. The huge snowdrops are Comet.

Discovering secrets. How to dry and store seed, so that the mice can’t get at them. Easy when you know how.

There’s always something new to find at Easton. This year it’s a botanical art exhibition in the courtyard which runs until 11th March -on Easton’s usual opening days.

I loved this aconite. My camera phone doesn’t really do it justice.

The artists taking part are Norma Gregory, Dawn Wright and Sue Vize.

For more information go to www.visiteaston.co.uk .

Easton is just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire.

Garden Restoration Plans for Holme Pierrepont Hall

There’s nothing more cheerful than turning up at a favourite garden to find everyone happy and smiling. This week I visited Holme Pierrepont Hall to find the owners and gardeners busy with renovation plans. Funds from a Heritage Lottery grant and the Country Houses Foundation means work can start on restoring garden walls which date back to the 16th century.

The funding will also enable research into the site’s history. During my tour of the gardens, I learned the topiary courtyard once housed aviaries for tropical birds, and a monkey house in the centre. I can’t wait to see what else is revealed when historical documents are studied by experts.

Built in 1500, the hall is thought to be the oldest brick building in Nottinghamshire and is still lived in by descendants of the Pierrepont family. Three generations of the family live here now, Robin and Elizabeth, Robert and Charlotte and their children Oliver and Cicely. Elizabeth, whose great grandmother was Lady Mary Pierrepont, moved here in 1969 and undertook some major restoration work in the house and garden. Today, the new conservation work is being led by Robert and Charlotte. And their enthusiasm is catching. It’s easy to get caught up in the optimistic atmosphere at Holme Pierrepont. They love their home, and genuinely enjoy sharing it with visitors. It’s heartening to hear plans to open on more days in the future. Currently the house and garden opens Sunday to Wednesday, February and March, and Sundays in April, 2-5pm. (Closed Easter Sunday). New for this year, there’s additional garden open days in May and June. Dates and times are on the website http://www.holmepierreponthall.com

As well as the courtyard, the hall is famous for its Spring Walk, featuring daphne, hamamelis, rhododendrons and acers, underplanted with hellebores, primula and masses of early bulbs. To help visitors identify the varieties, a guide has been produced and new signs installed in the garden.

Scent is important in the garden and mature hamamelis and daphnes are fabulous at this time of the year. This one is Daphne Jacqueline Postill.

There are several Hamamelis planted alongside the pathways. Hamamelis mollis, Diana and Westerstede, (pictured below) among them. It’s good to have a guidebook and new signs to be able to identify them correctly.

Snowdrops, these pictured below, are Galanthus Sam Arnott, are looking spectacular at the moment in the spring garden, and also in the Woodland Walk.

New signs direct you through the old walled orchard and on to the woodland where there’s also large drifts of wild Tulipa Sylvestris. These have been growing in the grounds since the 17th century. They were apparently first planted in the main garden, and then seemingly “thrown out” in to the woodland – where they’ve thrived.

It’s a peaceful walk, amongst the Jacob sheep, now occupying the walled orchard. There’s a possibility in the future these kitchen gardens might be restored.

The old walls curve around the orchard at the back of the hall. So many layers of history in those beautiful red bricks. I’d love to know what the research reveals about them.

There’s a circular walk around the woods, which were opened up to visitors in 2011. You’ll find evidence the family’s young children enjoy this space. There’s various dens and piles of sticks and vegetation made into bug hotels and wildlife habitats.

It’s inspiring to meet the gardeners and volunteers ( pictured below) and all the other experts working on the restoration project. Their enthusiasm and obvious love for this special place is evident. I was pleased to hear students from Brooksby College will be involved in the scheme, and will be learning conservation brickwork skills. I’m in favour of passing traditional skills on to young people. And opportunities like this are all too scarce today.

Until 29th April, visitors can view an art exhibition at the hall, made possible by the new funding. There are paintings by the last Countess Manvers, Marie-Louise Pierrepont, and also a relative, Georgina Brackenbury. Georgina, a militant suffragette, is renowned for her painting of Emmeline Pankhurst which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London. You can learn more about the exhibition at http://www.holmepierreponthall.com/georgina-brackenbury/.

Many thanks to Robert and Charlotte for inviting me to visit the hall and for taking the time to explain the plans. It’s an exciting time ahead and I wish them all the very best with their conservation project, preserving the garden for future generations- and visitors as well.

Contact details: http://www.holmepierreponthall.com e.mail: rplb@holmpierreponthall.com Tell: 0115 9332371

#wordlesswednesday – Smoke

Gardener’s Cottage at dusk at Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire.

Visiting the Food Fair in the courtyard. Famous for its jam and chutney, fudge and cake. The gardens look fabulous. Wonderful to see the topiary pruned and the beds prepared – all ready for Snowdrops 17-25 February. A highlight of our winter calendar. The photo below was taken this February.

Meanwhile. Some more autumn photos to brighten your day:

I worked here, the winter before last. Such a beautiful place. Historic gardens dating back 400 years. Visit the website to see more photos. Sadly the house was demolished after the war.

The terraces and walled gardens have been lovingly restored.

A special place to visit at any time of the year. Do you have a favourite garden you like to visit to see the changing seasons?

Win a copy of Secret Gardens of East Anglia- and here’s an update on my fund-raising plans

I have always believed people are amazingly kind and generous. Now I have the proof.

A week ago I wrote here about combining my gardening skills to raise money for Rainbows Children’s Hospice. And the response has been overwhelming. I wrote about giving talks to garden groups- and hosting open gardens. And immediately my lovely garden design customers Pat and John Stanley agreed to help. And best-selling writer Barbara Segall offered to give a talk on her new book Secret Gardens of East Anglia.

Here’s a poster for the event.

As soon as I mentioned Rainbows, Fiona from The Printers company in Loughborough offered to do the artwork and produce the posters for me. Thank goodness she did, as my first attempts were very amateurish and you’d have laughed to see them! Here’s Fiona, left with her assistant Maggie, right.

As soon as I had my posters, I whizzed around local shops and businesses asking them to put them in their front windows. Not one person turned me down. Here’s Googie in her shop – Googie’sFlowers at East Leake, near Loughborough. And as well as letting all her customs know, Googie has offered some gifts for the raffle.

The response on social media has been truly wonderful and supportive. On the day I announced my fund-raising plans, writer and gardener Gill Heavens sent the most fabulous card wishing me all the best with my projects. Such lovely, encouraging words. It actually made me cry, to be honest. I was so grateful for her generous donation as well, which I just kept looking at, as I couldn’t believe that I had set in motion a series of events that would lead to kind people sending money for Rainbows. Gill is also on twitter @GillHeavens which is where we first met.

Writer and blogger Alison Levey of blackberrygarden.co.uk @papaver on twitter very kindly offered to give Barbara accommodation for the night. I’m so grateful, as our spare room doesn’t bear inspection at the moment! It is in need of a complete renovation. I feel another blog post coming on…..

My dear friend and neighbour Charles Geary from award-winning Leicestershire company Geary’s Bakeries has promised to donate all the bread for our afternoon tea. And my amazing and ever-supportive Mum is making the cakes! Our local Co-op supermarket at East Leake is supplying the tea, sugar and milk.

I wrote a review of Barbara’s book Here . Publishers Frances Lincoln, part of the Quarto Publishing Group, have offered two copies to give away to readers of my blog. To win a copy please post a comment below and two will be picked out at random. Terms and conditions: The competition closes on 12th November. Entries after this time will not be counted.Open to readers world wide. Prize cannot be exchanged for a cash alternative. Winners chosen at random and will be contacted via the blog or on twitter. Winners to provide their postal address and books will be sent in the post via Frances Lincoln. Secret Gardens of East Anglia can also be purchased from amazon Here. Please also say in your comment if you don’t wish to be included in the give-away. Good luck everyone! And never underestimate the power of a smile 😊

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Words and Pictures

SECRET GARDENS OF EAST ANGLIA

 

Barbara Segall. Photography by Marcus Harpur

Frances Lincoln £20. Hardback.  Published 7th September 2017.

It’s impossible to resist dipping into the pages of any book with the words “secret” and “garden” in the title.

We all love peering over the garden gate  to get a glimpse of other people’s property.

And in Secret Gardens of East Anglia, Barbara Segall is our excellent guide, taking us straight down the drive and through the front gates of 22 privately owned gardens.

It is quite a revelation. We see sumptuous planting, grand sculpture, rose parterres, moated gardens,  and wildflower meadows galore! A real  treat – in words and pictures.

Here is just a flavour of some of the glorious gardens featured.

Wyken Hall, Stanton, Suffolk

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur. Perfectly co-ordinated, one of Wyken Hall’s peacocks is poised beneath a blue wooden pergola covered in climbing Rosa Blairii Number Two. The pergola is reminiscent of one at Bodnant in Wales. Owners Kenneth and Carla Carlisle have created a sumptuous rose garden, favouring highly-scented old rose varieties with soft coloured perennials such as delphiniums, astrantia and artemisia. The sound of water and the scent of roses always draws  me in. I could picture myself sitting in this beautiful garden on a hot, sunny summer’s day. Yes, I would be quite happy here!

Columbine Hall, Stowupland, Suffolk

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur. In my opinion, the most romantic of the gardens featured.  I’ve long been entranced by the walled kitchen garden which I first spotted on twitter. Head gardener and estate manager Kate Elliott ( @columbinehall) has worked here for 20 years and rightly describes the garden as her “pride and joy.”  Blue-grey paintwork used for gates, bridges and obelisks caught my eye, along with the planting scheme of silver and blue-mauve through to pink. Purple kales such as Cavolo Nero, Redbor and Rouge de Russie are set amongst  the silver leaves of globe artichokes.  I wasn’t surprised to read the owners’ comments :”We pick from the Kitchen Garden only with Kate’s permission, so as not to upset the colour co-ordinations or symmetry.”  A rare glimpse behind the scenes into the work and dedication that goes into creating a garden such as this.

 

Elton Hall, Elton, Cambridgeshire

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur. Home to Sir William and Lady Proby who chose to make a modern garden, rather than recreate the past.  The stately house has been in the Proby family for more than 300 years. It’s  fascinating to see how the contemporary design of the fountain and the pyramid topiary is set against a Gothic style house with turrets and castellations.  Proof that a modern style can work in a setting that’s steeped in history.

Wood Farm, Gipping, Suffolk

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Photo credit Marcus Harpur.    The photograph shows irises, cornflowers, mounds of lavender and box. On the other side of the property, the house appears to drift on a sea of white ox-eye daisies. The golden centres of the daisies are an exact match with the colour of the 500 year old Suffolk farmhouse. A very pretty house and garden and I would love to have the chance to ramble along that  garden path.

I must mention Ulting Wick, Ulting, Essex. Long on my  special-places-to-visit list, the owners Bryan and Philippa Burrough  have planted 10,000 tulips in the Old Farmyard garden. A particular feature of the garden is the bold and jewel-like colours set against the black paintwork of three listed barns. In spring, the bulbs take centre stage, but in late summer, it is the dahlias and bronze-leaved Ensete that turn up the heat. The garden has opened to the public for the past 14 years in aid of the National Gardens Scheme. After reading Barbara’s book you will want to follow  Philippa’s garden tweets @UltingWick. The sheer amount of work that goes into creating a garden such as this is highlighted in the stunning photos in the book.

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Barbara is a most entertaining “host” on what feels like the best holiday road trip /garden visit tour- ever.  Reading this beautiful book is like walking alongside Barbara. She expertly points out the secret areas and the special treasures in each garden.  The history and the background information is fascinating. And it feels such a treat to be “let in”  to these treasured, private spaces.

It’s a joy to read the stories behind the gardens and  to “meet” the people who own them.  And if the book has whetted your appetite- all but one of the 22 gardens are open to visit – on selected days of the year or by appointment only.

BARBARA SEGALL is a well-known horticulturist and garden writer. I’ve always looked out for her writing in the English Garden Magazine and also on the Richard Jackson’s Garden website. She is editor of The Horticulturist,  the journal of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, also editor of Herbs magazine for the Herb Society. Barbara lives in Suffolk and her first book for Frances Lincoln was Gardens by the Sea with photos by Marcus Harpur’s father, Jerry.  Barbara’s blog is http://www.thegardenpost.com.

MARCUS HARPUR . I’ve know Marcus since about 1992 when he left book publishing to join his father to form the Harpur Garden Library.  Sadly , Marcus died on August 6th this year after 18 months of illness. He saw finished copies of the book, but poignantly didn’t live to see it go on sale. When I spoke to him last, he described working on the book as “A joyful and satisfying project.”  He was a much loved and well respected photographer whose  skill in capturing the light and beauty in a garden is plain for all to see in this his final book.

Pre-order on Amazon at  amzn.to/2oqHgM2

Thank you to Frances Lincoln/ Quarto Group Books for supplying this advance copy for review.

 

 

 

 

 

Last chance to visit bluebell woods…..

Cold weather has held back the bluebells this year. They are still looking glorious. Last chance to visit Coton Manor tomorrow.  Here’s some photos from our visit today. As usual, we started with a picnic. Spreading our rugs under the branches of some apple trees, we  tucked into home-made bread and warming soup, followed by an array of cakes and shortbread. A great start to our garden visit.


Our little haven can be found at the far end of the car park. Funnily enough, we’d never noticed the orchard before. But full of blossom today, we could hardly miss it. Next we set out to visit the bluebells.

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As you can see, the bluebells are at their peak of perfection. It’s a sight I’ll hold in my memory until next spring. That blue, with the unfurling lime green leaves, and the honey scent. Just glorious!

We found the dogs’ graves. What a peaceful resting place.


The gardens always provide breathtaking planting, deserving of a separate post. But for now, here’s a taster of what we found.  Luckily the wisteria escaped any damage from the recent hard frosts.


I love this view from the terrace steps.

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I wrote about visits to bluebell woods here mentioning Coton Manor  and Hodsock Priory .  For more information click on the highlighted words. Also look at the Woodland Trust website for bluebell woods all over the country.  Be quick to visit. They are at their best right now.

Out of my potting shed to visit – Holme Pierrepont Hall

I’ve spent too much time online looking at snowdrop gardens – and wishing I had a helicopter to whizz me from Scotland to Cornwall.
They are all so tempting. But work, family commitments and lack of funds mean the grand tour will have to wait. 

When a friend told me about a garden that’s practically on my doorstep- Holme Pierrepont Hall, in Nottingham- I hardly had time to grab my coat. I was out of my  pottingshed  like a rocket.

 


Walls and a gazebo in the formal East Garden were built in the 17th century.

The south wall was demolished in the Georgian period to create parkland around the side of the house. The East Garden was abandoned after the First World War, and reclaimed  in the 1970s.


There are some glorious planting combinations. Silver stems of Rubus Golden Vale stand out against the dark yew background, with snowdrops as  groundcover. Everywhere there’s yew and box hedges and topiary.


My favourite view of the house. Dating back to the 1500s, the brickwork is some of the earliest in the county.


There’s some wonderfully gnarled trees in the garden. It’s still very much a family home- as well as a wedding and conference venue. We smiled at the evidence of children everywhere. There were swings in many trees and a home made zip wire in the woods. 


We followed direction arrows through the walled gardens and found these old espalier fruit trees. I love the way they refuse to die. Each one sports  a single vigorous branch.


I can spend any amount of time admiring old garden walls. We mulled over the different courses of bricks. Layers of history with a tale to tell.


The arrows took us to a recently cleared wood.  I decided that following a snowdrop-edged woodland path makes me very happy indeed. 


I took about 100 photos in the wood. It has such a peaceful  atmosphere. Almost like a secret garden. 


We followed the arrows back to the house and wandered through this  doorway, which leads to a pretty enclosed walled courtyard. We bought  tickets for a tour around the house which meant we could look through the windows down onto the parterre. Photos  can’t be taken in the house, which is understandable. It is a family home, after all. But I asked permission to take photos through the windows, which was allowed.


Looking down on the box parterre which is filled with lavender, pulmonaria and spring bulbs. The  boundary wall of the garden, and the house wall have a sort of unusual covered cloister walkway which contained potted camellia plants. 


There’s a good view of the church from the first floor windows.

This stonework being used as a bench looks like it came from the top of a Roman pillar. I wonder…..


We had  another walk round the East Garden before heading for home. This Prunus mume Beni-chidori was looking spectacular underplanted with snowdrops. The scent, reminiscent of fruit salad,  wafts around the whole garden. Quite strong for such a tiny flower.

Holme Pierrepont Hall  is open Sunday, Monday and Tuesdays in February and March 2-5pm. Also Sundays in April -apart from Easter Sunday. There’s a special Shakespeare in the Garden performance  on Thursday 15th June. 
I’m glad I’ve found Holme Pierrepont Hall -especially as it’s only 25 minutes drive from home. It makes me wonder how many other places are right on my doorstep, just waiting to be discovered. Perhaps I don’t need that helicopter after all. 

Have you “found” any gardens right on your doorstep? 

(Click on the highlighted words for more information. They are not affiliate or advertising links. )

#Snowdrop love, at Easton Walled Gardens

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In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing my photos of Britain’s most romantic garden renovation project.  Easton Walled Gardens.

There was once a magnificent mansion at the top of this flight of stone steps. The orangery windows looked over the glorious gardens below.

Franklin D Roosevelt, visiting the gardens on his honeymoon tour, described them as “A dream of Nirvana- almost too good to be true.” Sadly, the house  was demolished in 1951 and the gardens slowly abandoned. The gatehouse only survived when the bulldozer broke down. The gardens were lost under brambles and tree saplings.

Strolling around today, there’s a feeling of walking in the footsteps of those who lived and worked there in its heyday.

A stone bridge has been restored and leads to the great yew tunnel- which survived the neglect and abandonment.


Sheets of snowdrops lay dormant under the brambles. Just waiting to bloom again. There’s a fairytale feel to the place.  A Sleeping Beauty garden, lost and re-discovered.


And really, only love could have saved this garden. Ursula Cholmeley,  whose family lived at Easton for 400 years, has poured love, energy, passion, and time into the renovation project.  Work, started in 2001, continues today. And it’s a triumph. The “lost gardens of Easton” have been rescued and revived.


What’s your most romantic garden?  How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Click on the highlighted words for more information

Easton Walled Gardens   just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire, is open until 19th February for snowdrops.

Buy Snowdrops from Easton by post

Events calendar
Courses/ workshops at Easton
Sweet peas at Easton

WordlessWednesday. Walled garden doors 

Found at the National Trust’s Calke Abbey. We love the panel sides. Someone took a pride in this job. It’s right next to the Orangery, which dates back to 1777.

 How many gardeners have walked through this doorway into the walled kitchen garden over the past 250  or so years. It’s good to stop and ponder as we close one door on 2016 and think about opening new doors in 2017.